Raith Rovers 1 St Mirren 1
Four points dropped in three days.
That’s the frustrating situation Raith Rovers find themselves in following Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with St Mirren at Stark’s Park.
While nowhere near the scale of Saturday’s collapse in Dumbarton, this was another drawn match that the Kirkcaldy side should have won.
There was little Rovers could do about Saints 89th minute equaliser as Steven Mallan’s unstoppable free-kick flew into the back of the net, but there was ample opportunity to close this game out much earlier.
A patchy but purposeful first half performance was enough to put Raith in control of the match and they deservedly led through Mark Stewart’s 39th minute opener.
Had they maintained the tempo into the second half, Raith probably would have seen this game out comfortably against a side that offered little threat.
However, Rovers completely lost their way after the break and the number of rushed clearances and panic fouls in the closing stages ultimately came back to haunt them.
Raith made two changes from the 3-3 draw with Dumbarton, bringing Jon Daly back into the team in place of Craig Wighton, while Grant Anderson replaced the injured Mitch Megginson.
While separated by 11 points in the table, the teams shared identical form going into the match, a draw in the previous match preceeded by three defeats.
St Mirren were inches away from taking the lead in the game’s first attack as a poor clearance allowed Lewis McLear to control the ball in the box, and his deflected effort trundled just wide.
Rovers were almost hit on the break in the eighth minute but Scott Robertson raced back to make a brilliant last-ditch tackle that prevented three Saints players running in on goal.
An early wobble was perhaps understandable after the traumatic last 10 minutes on Saturday, but Raith settled into the match and for a good half hour period, they were on the front foot.
Grant Anderson had the first sight of goal on 15 minutes as he popped up in the centre forward position but after a good first touch he sclaffed his shot wide.
A minute later, a lovely ball from Rory McKeown to the back post found Stewart peeling off his marker but his header went beyond the far post - a good chance.
James Craigen then tested Jamie Langfield with a couple of long range efforts but the Saints ‘keeper was equal to them, tipping a free-kick attempt over the bar, before diving full stretch to push a 25-yard strike past his post.
From the corner, Langfield made another good block to deny Iain Davidson’s point-blank header.
The Saints stopper was eventually beaten six minutes before the break but not before he pulled off a wonder save to deny Jon Daly’s downward header.
Stewart latched onto the rebound to smash the ball home via the bar to score his fifth goal of the season.
Saints looked to respond before the break and Kevin Cuthbert was forced into a brilliant save in the 44th minute to tip behind Stuart Carswell’s 20-yard drive.
Raith then stopped playing in the second half, particularly after an enforced substitution caused by an injury to Lewis Toshney in the 61st minute.
This presented manager Ray McKinnon with a dilemma - whether or not to throw teenage right back Elliot Ford in for his first league appearance.
He instead opted to stick with experience, moving winger Anderson to right back and sub Ross Callachan was plonked into right midfield.
With two players now out of position - and their best attacking outlet on the night now in defence - the balance down the right just didn’t seem right.
Still, for all Saints second half possession, which Raith continually gifted to them by giving the ball away, they did not look capable of punishing the home side.
Kyle Benedictus avoided a possible red card in the 81st minute when he pulled back Calum Gallagher - referee John McKendrick opting for a yellow with the Saints players protesting he was last man.
Mallan’s free-kick was well held by Cuthbert, but he would have no chance with the midfielder’s next dead ball effort in the 89th minute.
Benedictus again concededed a rash foul, and Mallan stepped up to fire a powerful, dipping strike that left Cuthbert grasping thin air.
Another late sickener for Rovers and yet more points lost. The result means Rovers stay fifth in the Championship, behind Morton on goal-difference.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Toshney (Callachan 62), Davidson, Benedictus, McKeown, Anderson, McCord, Robertson, Craigen, Daly, Stewart (Wighton 87). Not used: Laidlaw, Campbell, Petrie, Matthews, Ford.
St Mirren: Langfield, Kelly, Webster, Carswell, Mallan, Baird, Agnew (Morgan 83), McLear, Gallagher, Shankland (McMullan 73), Reid. Not used: Wilks, Conlan, Thompson, Howieson, Cuddihy.
Referee: John McKendrick